“The Natural State” of machine control
Arkansas’ Forsgren Construction finds great things — both equipment and personnel —can come in small packages.
While big iron forms the bulk of Forsgren Inc.'s equipment lineup, the company recently expanded its fleet with a seriously downsized dozer. What the John Deere 450K unit lacks in size however, it more than makes up for in accuracy and productivity thanks to Topcon
3D-MCMAX machine control. Since its introduction earlier this year, the dozer has quickly established itself as the go-to solution for grading and backfilling in tight quarters. It proved a valuable at addition in a recent grading effort for a trucking company's new corporate headquarters in Ft. Chaffee, Arkansas, and the company sees it — and the machine control solution guiding it — playing a continued key role as they move forward.
"This was definitely one of the more difficult projects we’ve done from a grading standpoint… it would have been a real challenge to do it with grade stakes. This was a job literally made for GPS."
In addition to the site work which is a huge part of their business, Forsgren also has divisions that deal with utility installation, directional boring, engineering design,
concrete work and asphalt paving, according to Carrie Hudgens, the company’s GPS specialist and superintendent. “There’s not much we don’t do and, as a result, we’ve become one of the area’s more in-demand contractors.”
The company’s site work expertise was recently on display at the corporate headquarters project mentioned above. There, the Forsgren team has converted a 40-acre rolling hillside to a site suitable for the 200,000 square foot structure, the adjacent parking areas and its complimentary grounds. Getting to that point, said Hudgens, has not been without its challenges.
“Some areas needed up to 9 feet of fill to get to grade,” she said. “This was definitely one of the more difficult projects we’ve done from a grading standpoint. There were sections where parking areas had two to three feet of difference in elevation between them. Given that there were so many different levels on this job, it would have been a real challenge to do it with grade stakes. This was a job literally made for GPS.”
No stranger to GNSS, Forsgren company currently has Topcon machine control systems installed on six dozers, three motor graders and an excavator.
“In addition to that, just last year we added Topcon Millimeter GPS to our GOMACO concrete paver and curb and gutter machines,” said Hudgens. “We share the same monitor, receivers and mag box between the two units and everything else is wired. So it’s easy for our operator to just unplug the necessary components from one machine, carry them to the other machine, plug in and get to work.”
Forsgren is progressive in other areas as well, a fact borne out by Hudgens’ position within the company. In construction, an industry in which a mere nine per cent of the total workforce is female, Hudgens has flourished in her roles as supervisor and GPS specialist.
“Initially, I knew how to survey, but hadn’t done so on a computer,” she said. “But I learned the programs, took a number of classes, did online webinars, and discovered that I liked doing this new approach to survey. As a result, I started building DTMs for a previous Forsgren-owned company and have been building models for better than seven years now. So work that was formerly subbed out is now being done in-house, and I feel we are better company because of it.”
"Using the 3D-MCMAX system, we can have one side of the blade act like a tracker and get the grade we need for the sidewalk automatically."
Forsgren’s willingness to try new and innovative technology came to the forefront again last year when they were looking for a new dozer. They wanted one that would fill a size niche for them without adversely affecting productivity and, according to Hudgens, got that in the new John Deere 450K running a Topcon 3D-MCMAX machine control solution.
“We were specifically looking for a smaller dozer that would work well behind our curb operation, could get into tighter areas and yet could still keep up with our other units in terms of quality of performance. Working with Jeremy Mauney from the Little Rock branch of Trench Safety & Supply, we purchased the John Deere 450K with the new mastless Topcon system, and it’s done all that for us. Here on this site, there are areas near the building that are almost inaccessible with a larger machine, but the 450K with its 8-foot blade is able to easily get at them and get the job done.”
According to Rusty Reed, one of Hudgens’ colleagues and a Forsgren operator, the benefits of the new machine control solution definitely meet the company’s needs for performance.
“I’ve been using GPS for about ten years now and this system has so many features built into it that I really like,” he said. “Bringing up the information I need on the touch screen is extremely easy. Also, we subbed out the curbing facet of this job to a different company and they adjusted things to such a degree that our model no longer fit the curb. In the past, we would have had to put our tracker on to track the curb to get the two to three inch depth we needed. Using the 3D-MCMAX system, we can have one side of the blade act like a tracker and get the grade we need for the sidewalk automatically. There is still so much I have to learn about it but it’s impressing the heck out of me so far.”
Hudgens added that they’ve used the new system primarily for fine grading at their current site and she sees it filling that role — and more — as they move forward.
“For us, the bottom line is, we know what the GNSS solution can do for us and we rely heavily on it. On this job alone, we used machines running Topcon solutions to build all the dirt grade and gravel; we did all the storm drains, we installed conduits and roof drain, and built several retention ponds down below. We will always be replacing or upgrading equipment and components as they need it, but we’ve got a good system in place and we like what it’s doing for us.”